A prominent produce provider hopes to plant a casino and a hotel over a two-block radius.
Joseph G. Procacci desires to work until he reaches 96. The 85-year-old founder and CEO of Procacci Bros. Sale Corp., 3333 S. Front St., the East Coast’s largest tomato supplier, is hoping his future will find him heading another lucrative endeavor.
That yearning last month led the businessman to add his name to the bidders list for Philadelphia’s second Category 2 slot machine license, a move that could situate a casino and a hotel along a stretch that would include his company’s headquarters.
“I’ve always looked to take advantage of opportunities, and applying for this project is another example of that,” the octogenarian said Monday.
The New Jersey native, who splits his time between the Garden State and Florida, added that proposals by Stadium Casino LLC, who wants a gaming hall adjacent to the Holiday Inn, 900 Packer Ave., and PA Gaming Ventures LLC, who wishes to build within the Food Distribution Center at 700 Packer Ave., inspired him to consider expanding his portfolio, culminating with the Nov. 14 incorporation of PHL Local Gaming LLC and his Nov. 15 submission to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
He has aligned himself with Chicago’s Merit Management Group, which specializes in overseeing local casinos akin to what all six suitors for the license want, to plot Casino Revolution, an intended multi-phase venture that would in its early existence consist of a gambling site and a 250-room hotel that together would occupy a little more than one million square feet. Developer and Merit CEO Joseph J. Canfora said Monday that more plans are forthcoming and that the present ideas, including restaurants, a buffet, a steakhouse, a food court and parking, total $367 million.
“It’s a nice parcel of land to build a casino on,” he said. “The acreage Mr. Procacci has definitely offers us flexibility to have a positive impact on the area. On a macro level, these requests are all about location, location, location.”
To build their case for securing permission to build Pennsylvania’s 12th casino and offer 2,000 slot machines, 60 gaming and 25 poker tables, the business partners gave the board a 10-page site impact study that envisions their creations’ locations to be between South Front and Third streets, with Packer and Pattison avenues as the dominant thoroughfares. The traffic flow will not cause problems because of the project’s relative distances from the stadium district, according to the document, with Canfora adding the buildings’ separation from neighborhoods gives PHL three immense plusses.
“My acreage probably stands out the most,” Procacci, the owner of seven buildings across a 1.4-million-square-foot expanse, said. “We’re eager to make use of our territory and definitely have the funds to back this plan entirely.”
The proprietor, who along with sibling Michael formed Procacci Bros. in 1948 out of their father’s Camden basement, established his local presence in ’64, purchasing space in the Food Distribution Center. With operations also in Mexico, Puerto Rico, California, Florida, North Carolina and New Jersey, he oversees 12,500 employees responsible for handling nearly 300,000 tons of produce and flowers annually. The wholesale behemoth received the ’95 Produce Man of the Year Award from The Packer, a fresh produce industry publication, and maintains an active profile with his first brainchild due to his vow to work another 11 years. With a firm reputation in one field, one might wonder why Procacci, who would employ 1,000 workers as Casino Revolution’s primary stakeholder, would seek novelty now.
“This would be new for me,” he said. “However, with my background, I think locals would be glad to have me as a casino owner, and I would make great use of area vendors and investors, too.”
Like the other applicants, including two parties who would like a Center City casino and one who covets a Fishtown location, Procacci needed to submit a letter of credit or bond worth $50 million to the board, the equivalent of a slot license’s cost. If he were to win over the authorities, he would have to give $16.5 million more to cover the table games component.
The entities are rolling figurative dice after officials decided during the summer to accept proposals for the license, which for four years belonged to backers of the Foxwoods Casino project, who wanted to give Fishtown’s SugarHouse Casino a city-based gambling complement on South Columbus Boulevard between Tasker and Reed streets. Their failure to honor promises to raise sufficient equity doomed the deal and caused the board in December 2010 to revoke a license for the first time. The victor in the high stakes competition could offer as many as 5,000 slot machines and 250 table games.
“We’re aiming for a balanced approach to the numbers game,” Canfora said of Casino Revolution’s decision not to make use of the maximum allotments. “This way we cut down on problematic issues and concentrate on rewarding the board for its trust in us.”
The developer desires to replicate the success of Bellingham, Wash.’s Silver Reef Casino, which Merit manages and has devoted energy toward in making it a beacon for job training and economic growth for the Evergreen State. Money matters certainly will surface 9 a.m. Feb. 12 when the board will host an information-only session at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The Center City site also will oversee public input hearings on all six projects April 11 to 12. Beginning March 4, the board’s website will open for registration for those interested in speaking at the hearings. A die-hard casino supporter, Jake Lilliworth plans to attend.
“It’s the American way to make a living,” the resident of the 1700 block of South Orianna Street said. “I’ve read about all the projects and applaud the principals. They’re rich and want to get richer.”
“I have mixed feelings about this proposal,” Steve Scarlata, of 18th and Johnston streets, added. “It’s better to have a casino than an abandoned lot, but this location is not far enough removed from SugarHouse and would likely saturate the market since it is catering to the same clientele. With Chester [Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack] and Atlantic City so close, I don’t see this as a good move from a business standpoint.”
Board spokesman Doug Harbach stated his employer will carefully review all comments and proposals. With no definitive timeline set for naming the license’s victor, Procacci hopes the powers that be will favor his expansive concept.
“The opportunity is there to build,” he said, “and I believe we have the best plan.”
Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.
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